What are the basic differences between cables and wires?

Cables and wires are the terms that are very common in the electrical electronics and communication field. But people often tend to get confused between both the terms as they look similar, but they are quite different actually. This module will give you a brief description of the difference between the cables and wires.

What makes a cable?

A cable contains a hot wire carrying the current, a neutral wire to complete the loop and a grounding wire as well. A cable is classified by the total number of wires it is made up of and their gauge.

What makes a wire?

A wire is measured by diameter. According to the diameter of the wire, it will be measured by a gauge number. The smaller the gauge number, the thicker is the wire. The perfect gauge to be used for residential applications is 10 & 20. But, do keep in mind that big wires carry more current and can damage household appliances by burning the fuse.

Basic differences between the cables and wires

The basic key difference between cables and wires is that a wire is a single conductor whereas a cable is a group of conductors. But the conductors of both wires and cables are made of a common material either copper or aluminum. Usually, the wires are bare and are twisted. But, some types of wires are coated with a thin PVC layer. Coming to the case of cables, they run parallel to each other and are bonded or twisted together to form a single case. For safety purposes, an inner and outer sheath is made.

Uses of cables and wires:

A wire is used to bear the mechanical loads, to carry electricity, to transmit telecommunication signals, for heating jewelry, clothing, automotive or any industrially manufactured parts like pins, bulbs, and needles.

A cable is used to carry electricity, for power transmission, and telecommunication signals.

Types of electrical cables:

  • Twisted pair cable: A twisted pair cable comprises of 2 cables that are twisted together. They are generally used in telecommunication and data communication.
  • Multi-conductor cable: This cable has 2 or more conductors that are insulated and they are used to protect the signal integrity.
  • Coaxial cable: In this type of cable, the 2 conductors are separated from each other by an insulating dielectric. These coaxial cables are generally used in TV cable as its performance is more stable than the twisted pair cable.
  • Fiber optic cable: They have greater bandwidth than metal conductors and so they can carry more information and data. For this reason, fiber optic cables are used instead of traditional copper cables.

Types of electrical wires:

  • Solid: A solid wire has a single conductor and is either insulated or bare. They are usually protected by a colored sheath. This wire offers a lower resistance and is best to use at higher frequencies.
  • Standard: This type of wire contains many thin wire strands that are twisted together.

The advantage of using cables like a 2 core cable is that they are extremely durable whereas the advantages of using wires are that they show high resistance to the metal.

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